You Can’t Make This S**T Up

And now, a collection of short vignettes…

Every year my husband and I have a tradition, something we started doing when we were dating that he initially dragged me to nearly kicking and screaming but now I enjoy. Sing it with me…”gotta go to the auto show!” Yes, indeed, it was that time of year again for us to head to the Greater Twin Cities Auto Show, where we look at cars, sit in them and pretend to annoying floor folks that we might be interested in them. Once in a while we get lucky and get a smart one who knows we probably aren’t going to buy one, so we just chat instead, and if we are REALLY lucky, well, we get one like Ben.

I can’t even remember which dealership Ben was at, but my husband and I were looking at the rear space of the car and when he couldn’t get the cargo cover out, I got to show off a little when I figured it out. Of course, I had to gloat a tiny bit and say something lippy like “how do you like me now?” as I tried to figure out where to store the cover once off. It was about then that Ben came up and I think overheard us trying to figure it out, and we started chatting. He mentioned something about seeing weird things at the auto show, and of course I couldn’t let that go and asked him what the weirdest things were that he’s ever seen. Well…

If you ever want to start an interesting conversation, ask someone who travels around the country for their job what the strangest things are that they’ve seen.  It was crazy what he told us, even knowing it didn’t happen here. He said that he caught one couple trying to get lucky in one of the cars once. Seriously? Your idea of a romantic tryst is in a car, in a convention center with a couple thousand of your not-so-closest friends potentially watching? I know some folks get off on voyeurism, or on the thrill of possibly getting caught. That element of risk supposedly heightens something, or so I’ve heard. All I can say to that is “blech”. After hearing that story, I’m going to start washing the clothes I’ve worn there as soon as we’re home, and bringing a travel size hand sanitizer, because what if they WEREN’T caught first before they, um, well, you know…

It seems that not more than a month or two will go by and up pops another story online from one of Meghan Markle’s estranged family members, whining about how she’s so unfair to them and they just want to repair their relationship with her. They just can’t understand why she won’t speak to them. Really? Are you all really that stupid? (The answer from the Magic 8 Ball is “Signs Point to Yes”) You insist on conducting your business in public, when she doesn’t have any personal social media? Here’s a suggestion: Shut the hell up. Stop talking about her to any and all media outlets. You want to prove to her how sincere you are about repairing a relationship? Be quiet and wait it out, and maybe, just maybe, after a few years, she might believe you. Although honestly if it were me, I wouldn’t.

 

 

Speaking of the Magic 8 Ball, here’s some totally useless information for you to tuck away for one of those moments you just simply need to amaze, astound and confound folks. Did you know that the cube inside the ball is an icosahedron, floating in blue-dyed alcohol? That’s a 20-sided cube for you non-nerds out there. 10 of the answers are affirmative, 5 are non-committal and 5 are negative, according to its page on Wikipedia. That page also contains a complete list of all of the responses on those 20 sides, in case you feel like a trip back into your childhood

I noticed something a while back, another article about the entitled Kardashian klan that makes me want to shove bamboo under my fingernails. Kourtney was giving a video tour of her kids $100K technology free “playhouse” they had built for them. My immediate reaction was “what the…”? Spending that much money for a place your kids can’t/don’t bring phones, ipads, play stations, etc is ludicrous. Here’s a technology free playhouse for your kids, Kourtney, that doesn’t cost ANYTHING (I realize this is a new concept for you, but perhaps you could give it a try.) It’s called a backyard. It has trees, flowers, bugs, birds and all kinds of neat things in nature. And if yours doesn’t, perhaps try a public park. There’s your chuckle for the day, folks. A Kardashian in a public park. If that doesn’t bring you giggles, nothing will. 

 

Death of an Art

The other day I went to a local big chain store, looking to buy a small tablet of writing paper. You’ll no doubt remember what I am talking about – sheets about 6×9, white, ruled, but no perforations at the top or holes on the sides. The pages were glued at the top, and you just peeled them off one at a time. I believe they were made by Mead, and my mom always had one or two of them laying around the house somewhere, for notes, memos, lists and writing a quick letter to someone. My plan was to write a couple of letters to a few of my husband’s relatives that always send us a letter with their Christmas card, and include them with our 8748629550_cb3342302f_wNew Year’s cards this year. I searched everywhere in the store, but couldn’t find the tablet anywhere, and figured this location was out. So, I looked at a different location…nope, not there either. No stationary in the cards department either. It finally dawned on me, no one writes letters anymore. We tweet, Facebook and e-mail everything. Even an actual Christmas letter is going the way of the dodo bird, and has been replaced by the Shutterfly photocard (yes, we’ve succumbed as well!) but the list we send out to has slowly dwindled over the years as folks have stopped sending to us. Amazingly, we do have 2 relatives who still send handwritten letters every year, and I like to send a handwritten note back to them as well. I feel like if they have taken the time to do that for me, it’s the least I can do for them.

Think back, when was the last time you actually sent a handwritten letter? Not a birthday card, or a “thinking of you” card, those don’t count. I mean a real letter that you wrote out on paper or even old-fashioned stationary, and then put into an envelope that you hand addressed and put a stamp on and sent out? Something that you had to put some thought into, for that individual recipient, that was personalized in some way. It wasn’t a generic, whitewashed form letter that was printed out en masse, then had a one or two-line note at the bottom, followed by your hastily dashed off signature, but an honest-to-goodness real letter.  The sad byproduct of our not doing so are more announcements like the one I just read last week, for the closing of the Papyrus shops. CNN reported that its parent company filed bankruptcy and is closing 254 stores. They are one of the few retail places around that still sold fine stationary. So, when did you last send a letter? Has it been so long that you can’t remember? If the answer is either “yes” or “I’ve never have sent one”, I’m issuing you a challenge! Within the next week, go and write a letter to someone, and mail it. Let me know what happens, what kind of response you get from them, I would love to know.

Another art that is dying off, cursive writing. Apparently this is no longer taught in our schools, from what I’ve been told (having no kids, I don’t know this for a fact, so I might be wrong) but it sure seems to me that I see an awful lot of young ladies printing in the same way these days, large loopy letters, as if that is the penmanship now taught. It makes me wonder, do any of them know how to sign their names in cursive? I can remember my dad telling me when I was younger how important it was to be consistent with my signature, so that I would know if someone tried to forge it. I never did quite master doing it the same way every time like he did, but I have always done it in cursive, never printed. Are documents legally bound if not signed? I guess they must be, as even an “X” is sufficient if witnessed, but it certainly does seem strange.

Also having gone the way of the dodo bird is an RSVP. It comes from a French phrase ” Répondez s’il vous plaît”, and translates to “Respond, please”. We here in America have adapted it to mean “Respond So Very Promptly”. It does NOT mean “only if you feel like it” or “no response needed”, which is what I tend to get these days. Even if you don’t see an official “RSVP” on an invitation, unless said invitation is an open house, please give the host or hostess the courtesy of a reply. They are probably going to a lot of trouble to plan the event, and in addition to needing to plan for food and beverages, if it’s at their home they need to clean. It’s a metric s**t ton of work to throw a party, folks. Be courteous and let the person who invited you know if you’re coming WELL IN ADVANCE of the party. Don’t be a putz and make them call/email/message/text you repeatedly to find out. Especially if it’s the week their new refrigerator died and they are trying to cope with living out of a mini-fridge and 3 coolers. (I can’t make this stuff up.) Just reach out and let them know either way, trust me, you’ll make their day.

Getting Old Will Cost Ya

In our house we have an aging problem. Things are starting to really not be as smooth as usual, getting more clunky, and making noises that are unexpected and less than delightful.
No, I’m not talking about hubby and I, and although I could be, I’m actually talking about our old appliances. About half of them were still original from when the house was built which meant we needed to have a plan for how we would replace them. It’s like I said to my husband one day, if the dishwasher goes, it’s kind of a pain, and if the microwave goes, it starts to hurt a bit more. If it’s the stove, well now we’re getting really serious and if it’s the refrigerator, well that’s a trip TODAY to buy something. So, we’d been looking, planning, saving and trying to decide what would be getting bought first based on what was giving us trouble, and what was annoying us most on any given day. About six weeks ago I finally couldn’t take it, and with early Black Friday sales upon us, talked him into a new dishwasher, and off to the appliance store we went to pick out a new dishwasher.

As we waited for our delivery day, something unexpected happened. I went to put something in the microwave one morning and heard a horrendous combination grinding/growling sound. One second later I flung the door open and turned it off. We fiddled with it a bit, tried again and got the same result. Back to the appliance store we went and our wonderful salesman, Dominic, chuckled and said “yep, cracked your magnetron tube. It’s cheaper to buy a new microwave than replace those.” So we picked out a new one of those, and added it to the dishwasher order. Remember what I said about it hurting a bit more if the microwave went out? Guess what…it hurts a lot! I never realized how much we’ve come to rely on it. Need soft butter in a hurry? Not happening. Want to have a quick cup of hot chocolate or tea? Nope. Reheat some leftovers? Yeah, that isn’t going to work either. Seriously, this thing that my family didn’t own 30 years ago, is something we can barely live without in 2019.

What really surprised me, however was what happened AFTER it arrived. Last time we bought appliances, which was only 3 years ago, we got wonderful manuals with them, chock full of “here’s what you have, how you use it, etc.” This time around our ‘user manual’ was 4 pages long, printed on cheap, thin paper. It barely told us more than “here is the on button”.  If you want to know anything about your appliances, you need to go to the company’s website and download the user manual, or find a scannable QR code. Which is all well and good but what about for folks that don’t have computers or internet? (And if you just said “what’s a QR code, well there may not be anything we can do for you.) I know, I know, there are a whole bunch of you out there that find it hard to believe there are people in these United States without computers and not connected to the internet, but in April of 2019, Pew Research Center analysis of survey data shows that as of April 2019

“10% of U.S. adults do not use the internet …and seniors are much more likely than younger adults to say they never go online. Although the share of non-internet users ages 65 and older has decreased by 7 percentage points since 2018, 27% still do not use the internet, compared with fewer than 10% of adults under the age of 65. Household income and education are also indicators of a person’s likelihood to be offline. Roughly three-in-ten adults with less than a high school education (29%) do not use the internet in 2019, compared with 35% in 2018… The research found that key reasons for not being on the internet were that a third of non-internet users (34%) did not go online because they had no interest in doing so or did not think the internet was relevant to their lives. Another 32% of non-users said the internet was too difficult to use, including 8% of this group who said they were “too old to learn.” Cost was also a barrier for some adults who were offline – 19% cited the expense of internet service or owning a computer.”

I know there’s going to come a time when the whole dang world is on the computer, but I can’t help but think that these manufacturers are jumping the gun just a tad.

Having said that, it sure is nice having a dishwasher that is so quiet I have to almost put my ear next to it to hear it running, and I love that the top panel on my microwave isn’t halfway to falling off anymore. Now if I can just keep the fridge and stove working for a while yet.

The Road Trip, Part II

The saga continues…

We drove to Paducah by way of St Louis. What a mess St. Louis was, part of the freeway thru downtown was shut down, which we didn’t know, so we ended up rerouting a few times before we finally figured out how to get out of town to get where we wanted to go. Now THERE was an adventure. South on the freeway, exit, north on the freeway, exit, drive a few city streets, back on the freeway, oops not THAT way, don’t miss the NEXT EXIT, ARGH, missed it, get the next one, and then finally we were headed toward Paducah. 

As we continued on, the countryside and river were just so peaceful and beautiful. That’ was a lot of the fun of the trip, just being relaxed and seeing the scenery, not knowing what was ahead, and on the way, we found Clarksville. No, not THAT Clarksville, although I’m going to pretend it is. IMG_3451This one is a really tiny town, with the railroad running through it, between town and the river. As we got to the river, we could see there had been major flooding this year. A rock monument by the river marked a high-water spot from 1973 and some folks we spoke with said this year eclipsed that easily. Many of the businesses have not yet recovered and reopened. It’s a cute town, with a lovely area along the river where it looks like they might have a farmer’s market, and a great spot for tourists to stop and hopefully they’ll be able to get back on their feet. After I got home, I posted a photo Gina took of me under the brick arch by the railroad track in Clarksville, where the RR crossing was visible, and put it on Twitter, tagging Micky Dolenz (yes, THAT Mickey Dolenz) saying “look what I found on the Great River Road”. The next day he had clicked “like”. Am I absurd because I’m completely geeking out over that?

We made it to Paducah that afternoon, and found it to be delightful!  On the way down we tried to get an air B&B, but all were filled. Gina called the Hotel 1857, and they had one room left. Just as she was about to tell them we’d take it, they told us the owner had just opened up his condo across the street for rent, for $10 more. So instead of $165 a night for a nice hotel room, did we want to pay $175 for a newly renovated half million-dollar warehouse condo that was 2800 square feet, 2 levels with a private entrance and 2 decks? Um, heck yes! Within walking distance to everything, it was a fabulous place, and normally rents for $275 a night so if you ever are in Paducah, check out the condo with the hotel. It had hardwood floors throughout, an up-to-date kitchen that was stocked with basic necessities if you want to cook, and well-appointed guest rooms. The master suite had a beautiful glass walled walk-in shower that was about 6 x 10 feet, with a rain-style shower head, and towel warmer.

The town had a catastrophic flood in 1937, and built a concrete flood-wall for protection, The panels that face away from the river are painted with murals that tell the history of the town, and on the river side are two areas with multiple steps, like an amphitheater. There is a place for a stage, and musicians play in the summer. Behind the stage is a sloped concrete boat ramp about a block long, and wide enough for several lanes of cars. While it functions as a boat ramp, on that warm summer night with a full moon it looked more like a summer cruise lane with cars driving continuously across, coming in one side of the open flood wall and going out the other.


Paducah is also the home of all things quilting, the national quilt museum and Hancock’s of Paducah, one of the largest quilt fabric stores I’ve ever seen (i.e. mecca for quilters.) Imagine fabric, tools and patterns spread over an area the size of 2 basketball courts, and you’d about have it.  I spent over 2 hours shopping for fabric and could easily have spent 2 or 3 more. While I’ll be going back, I hope that the next time I’ll pick a weekend that isn’t the National Quilt Show, which was the reason why all of the hotel rooms were sold out! You couldn’t throw a rock that weekend in Paducah without hitting a quilter, and while I wish I’d had time to get to the museum, unfortunately we just couldn’t make that work. 

After Paducah, we took a little trip to Metropolis, home of Superman. Yep, there really is a town called Metropolis, IL, just over the Ohio River from Paducah. IMG_3433They have a huge Superman statue in the town square, a museum, and some other artifacts. All a bit silly and lot of fun! Of course, we HAD to take our picture with Superman.

From there we drove across MO to Jefferson City to spend a night with my husband’s nieces, his most fun and delightful relatives. While not as picturesque as the river drive, it was nearly as interesting. There was a time or two I told Gina I was really happy I knew I’d just had my car serviced and gotten new tires, because I wouldn’t have wanted to break down where we were. We saw a Confederate flag or two flying, and there were places were the general state of run-down made us feel like we were definitely not somewhere we were comfortable. I even remember one spot on highway 72, where we saw a multi-unit housing complex, like a 4-plex, right on the side of the road that had been abandoned, maybe 20 or 30 years ago. It’s slowly being swallowed by nature, vines are growing over it, trees up and around it. It won’t be long before you can’t see it, and it’s either swallowed up completely or falls down. It’s sad, so desolate and deserted. How does that happen? People just walk away, stop fixing things up? There were lots of little towns too, although calling them towns was generous, as they weren’t more than a handful of houses clustered together.

fullsizeoutput_9f9fWe got to Jefferson City around 6, unpacked the car and headed downtown with my husband’s nieces and had a wonderful dinner. They both are the most gracious hostesses, and I love spending time with them.  After dinner we sat on their deck and had a margarita, enjoyed the warm evening, watched and photographed the antics of a couple of praying mantises as we made friends with their beloved 19-year old Missy Kitty. I’m so glad I got to meet that lovely beauty as I learned she passed away a few weeks ago. She was lucky to have moms that loved her as much as those two did. 

The drive home on Sunday was LONG…almost 7 hours from Jefferson City to home, but the trip was fantastic. The difficult part was that the shortest route from there is very zig-zaggy – as in, go north 3 miles, then west 2.5, then north 5, then west 1 etc. and we kept doing that for what felt like forever, until we finally connected with the freeway somewhere south of Des Moines, IA. The alternative would have been to either head straight west to catch I-35, or go to Columbia and then get on some more main highways to Minneapolis but those would all have been longer routes.  The trade-off was shorter but lots of turns, or longer and a few turns and then just drive. No great choices either way, so we went with shorter. We (meaning me) rewarded myself with a stop in Des Moines at Krispy Kreme, because of course, why not?

So, the adventure is done, and it certainly was one. Would I do it again? Absolutely!! It was fun, I learned a lot about my cousin and myself, and had a great time. 

The Road Trip, Part 1

When my husband told me he was going to go on a camping trip with a couple of guys again this year, I decided I was NOT going to be left out. No siree, I was going to have a little fun of my own, and got ahold of my cousin who is also one of my dearest friends and asked if she would like to go on a vacation with me. Her response was an instant “of course!” and after a lot of back and forth as to where we’d go, we settled on a road trip down the Great River Road, driving down along the Mississippi River for 5 days. One of our aunts asked if we were going to be like Thelma and Louise, and if we were smart, we’d have gotten t-shirts about the movie (or at least a couple of them with Brad Pitt’s face on ’em, goodness!) But it certainly was an adventure, and I thought I’d share a bit of it with you.

Day 1

Got only a little lost, twice, because really it wouldn’t be a road trip without getting lost, right? To our credit we were following the map we got from the Great River Road website, but it was a really crappy map. But that’s ok because getting lost was part of the adventure, and who cares, it’s vacation. We spent the first night in a lovely hotel in Muscatine, Iowa, called The Merrill, right on the river. If you’re ever in Muscatine, I highly recommend staying there. It’s a new hotel, the staff couldn’t have been nicer or more welcoming and helpful, the rooms were comfortable and clean, with nice amenities and the price was good. Breakfast the next morning was excellent (steel cut oats with dried fruit compote and creme brulee-like crust of brown sugar on top. It was absolutely heaven, and then once again we were on our way. 

Day 2

As we continued down the road, we stumbled on Fulton, where we noticed a huge windmill in the center of town. Being we are both of Dutch descent we had to check that out, so we drove to it and found out it was one of two working windmills in the US. IMG_3393Fulton was settled by the Dutch, and as they say “if you’re not Dutch, you’re not much” so I guess it’s a swell little town. We took selfies by the windmill (it’s REALLY hard to take a selfie while facing the sun and trying to make sure you get the windmill included in the background, just sayin’), then texted our moms and told them we lied about the road trip and flew to Holland instead. I’m pretty sure neither of them bought it, but it was still fun anyhow, and just the kind of mischief our grandpa Cornie would have loved. 

Continuing the drive south from there, we wound alongside the river, through farmlands, and just enjoyed the scenery of the midwest. We had hoped to make it through St. Louis when there wasn’t rush hour, but I guess there is no such time. We also didn’t know that the route we planned to take had an unexpected closure due to a chemical spill, so that caused us to get slightly lost the second time as we couldn’t take the exit we planned to, shot farther south than expected, went off the freeway and turned back north, got on the freeway, then went past where we wanted to be, had to exit the freeway again and ended up in a residential area that quite frankly had seen slightly better days before we were able to find the reroute we needed. 

We finally got to Hannibal, MO that second night, home of Mark Twain. We thought about touring his boyhood home but decided against it as we thought $12 seemed a bit much. I didn’t know his home was only a block from the Mississippi River, which helps to explain its influence on his life. Dinner was a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi, and I’m fairly certain that other than the crew we were the youngest ones there. We did meet a lovely couple in their 60’s who made it a goal to visit all 50 states, and this year they were on #’s 44-47. Next year they will finish the last 3. They fly from home and fly state to state, taking in something of each state over a period of a few days. When they finish next year they’ll wrap up their trip in Fargo, ND, because apparently at the visitors board in Fargo you can have your photo taken next to a statue of the woodchipper from the movie “Fargo”, complete with a fake leg coming out of it, if you’ve visited all 50 states, and you get a certificate indicating you’ve completed all 50. Since their last name is Fargo, she said it just seemed apropos.

The dinner on the boat was nice, the ride on the river was fun, but the downside was returning to the dock.  The gnats/bugs were swarming the dock lights, which were right outside the exit door. And when I say swarming, I mean when I first saw them, they were so thick I thought it was fog! Leaving the gift shop, you literally had to hold your breath, duck your head and run. My cousin and I could do it, but the older folks on board had a hard time of it, and even running we still had to swipe bugs off our clothes when we got to the car. A nice heavy-duty fan to blow them away wouldn’t have gone amiss there!

That night we stayed at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Hannibal and I’ve never had a bad night at one, until that night. We were awakened sometime after midnight to the sound of what seemed like bowling balls being dropped on the floor. Repeatedly. After several minutes of heavy footfalls, repeated thumps and no speaking, we called management who said they would take care of it. The noises stopped; we went back to sleep only to be reawakened a short time later by the same noises. Another phone call to the management, another request to have it handled. Then at 5, my cousin woke me saying “do you hear that?” it was water (or some clear liquid) dripping onto her bed from the ceiling. It was in a straight line, about 18″ long, steadily dripping. Another call to management, but this time we asked him to come to the room. He did, where the poor 30-year old manager was confronted by 2 tired and crabby middle-aged women. We showed him the issue and handed him the bill that had been slipped under the door and my cousin just said “take care of this. We’ve had a horrible night between the guys above us and now this, and we aren’t paying for this room.” Fortunately, we’d gotten a room with 2 beds, so rather than move to another room we shared my bed for a couple more hours of sleep before getting up and heading on our way. But I swear I couldn’t help but wonder what the heck those guys were doing up there? Meth lab? Dismembering bodies? Good lord I know I have a vivid imagination, but who makes that much noise in the middle of the night without talking? Seriously!

Day 3

Before leaving Hannibal, we thought about touring the Mark Twain caves, but decided not to pay the $20 admission fee and instead drove up a lovely overlook called “Lovers Leap”.

fullsizeoutput_9f52

There’s a legend about an Indian Princess and her lover, who leapt to their deaths rather than be separated.  Here are photos of the monument to them along with one with the story. fullsizeoutput_9f53There was also a monument there to 3 boys who disappeared from near there after going exploring one day, back in the late 1960’s. To this day they’ve never been found and it’s not known if they fell into some caves and couldn’t get out, were abducted or what happened. fullsizeoutput_9f58Look the story up, it’s spooky and very odd.

 

 

 

Still to come, Paducah, KY, the confederate flag, Jefferson City and donuts! Next up, “The Road Trip, Part 2” and the rest of our adventure.

 

A Little Birthday Gift

As we’ve gotten older, my husband and I have found that we don’t need as much as we used to. Food, clothes, pay the bills, and a few toys here and there. What IS different of course, is the size of the toys: no longer are we content with jigsaw puzzles and a “Please Don’t Break the Ice” game. Now the toys we want are more likely to have multiple zeros on the end, which of course makes it challenging to figure out what to get each other for birthdays and Christmas without breaking the bank, or more appropriately, what I need to get my husband for his birthday or for Christmas. By contrast, I’m easy to buy for. I’ll make a list for him…a long list with many options as a matter of fact, which he will then proceed to ignore, try to figure out what to get me on his own and tell me I’m impossible to buy for. He on the other hand, will not put together a list, and there is a reason for that

You see, Mike can’t seem to resist getting little treats for himself right before his birthday or Christmas. No matter how often I have asked, begged, pleaded, cajoled, demanded, and insisted, I just can’t seem to get him to understand that he’s losing husband points when he does this. I keep telling him ‘do NOT buy things for yourself in the month before your birthday and in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s likely you’ll get that thing for said upcoming event”, but it doesn’t matter.

So, when I do come up with an idea for something he doesn’t have, it really feels like a ‘eureka!’ moment for me. I get really excited, I’m happy, feel giddy, and wonder if I can pull it off. Then I get the gift for him and hide it where I pray he won’t find it before I can have a chance to wrap it up. Pulling this off successfully, however, requires cooperation from my husband, which in 19 years together I am sad to say I have only been able to pull off once. Doing the math, that’s 1 out of 38 chances, an only 2.6% success rate. To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie, that’s horrible.

It happened again today. We have a tiki hut outside – a screened porch that we’ve decorated with a fun tiki theme. Of course, if you have a tiki hut you have GOT to have tiki cocktail glasses, right?

Well, about 2 weeks ago, I decided I would buy a set of replacement tiki bar glasses for him, since we’d broken one of our original ones a few months back. We’d talked about getting the backup set but never did it, and I thought “what a perfect birthday gift!” Screen Shot 2019-09-04 at 10.23.02 PMSo I found it on Amazon, ordered it, prayed it would arrive when he was at work (it did), hid it in a closet and waited. Since he’ll be camping when his birthday is this year, I figured I’d give him the glasses this weekend. This morning, while I had a small break from working, he came into my office and said “oh by the way, just thought I’d let you know I just ordered another set of the tiki bar glasses as a backup set for ours.” I just sat there and finally said “you have got to be kidding me” then got up, went to the closet, pulled out the box, handed it to him and said, “well, hell, Happy Birthday honey!” He peeked in the box and just started to laugh.

I guess the good news is we’re set if we break a few more or have lots of folks over for cocktails in the tiki hut.

Happy Anniversary to Me!

I was fiddling around this morning, checking stats in my blog, when I found out that yesterday marked 4 years to the day from when I published my first blog post. It was quite short, the bulk of it is below, and I thought I’d share it with you so that I can admit to what I have – and have not – accomplished in that time.

As I now must admit I’ve passed one milestone in my life and have a nodding acquaintance with middle age, and am approaching another as I near completion of my studies in graduate school – finally! – it’s time to start doing some of the things that I’ve either said I would, or have envied others for doing. Improve my photography skills enough to win local awards, and perhaps be published; not miss sending anyone a birthday card all year long (no, really!); start my novel; write a blog (thank you Diane Henders, for a little push, and a lot of inspiration.)

I was pretty ambitious when I started this, and was sure that blog writing would inspire me to get off the dime and get my novel written, but as it does, life got in the way. Since that first post I’ve had hip surgery, changed jobs, lost my job and started a new one, lost a family member, taken up old hobbies and started some new ones. What I haven’t done is written my novel or won any photography awards. But maybe that’s ok, because I’m having fun, and finding inspiration in the world around me.

I’ve started quilting again, and even took on a part-time job in a quilt fabric shop last fall. Right now, I’m scrambling to finish up a quilt for “Quilts of Honor”, which is an organization that collects quilts with patriotic themes, which are then donated to veterans who’ve been wounded while on active duty. Specifically, the group I’m working with has requested ours go to women vets this year, and they will be given on Veteran’s Day this fall. Here is the top of my quilt, and I’m hoping that by the end of this week I’ll have it all stitched with the batting and back so I can get to the binding.

I’ve also been knitting a lot and have found I really enjoy making socks! If you’d have asked me when I first started knitting again (I first learned in high school) I would have told you I probably would like larger needles and thicker yarn better, but I’m finding for some reason that I do enjoy making socks on small, circular needles. Maybe it’s because it’s a small number of stitches, and seems to go fast.

I also took up rock painting over the past few years, which I really enjoy. We found no shortage of rocks in the dirt in our yard as we mucked about with planting new shrubs and plants, and when we found some that were suitable for painting (i.e. smooth surface, interesting shape and a large enough surface), we’d set them aside (and by we I really mean my husband who did most of the digging!) and then washed ’em up. Now I have a lovely free collection, along with no shortage of ideas thanks to Pinterest.

I’m still not so hot on sending out birthday cards, so if you’re waiting for one from me, sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you could be in for a letdown. I do try, really, but apparently my brain is just not wired for it. Consider yourself really lucky if I remember to send you an email. At least I’m not sending you a rock!

 

Things Mom Never Told You, Vol VII.

Almost exactly a year ago I wrote a post on putting together a drip irrigation system for your patio or flower garden to help ensure your flowers and/or vegetables stay watered, even if you’re not around to do it. Well one of the lessons I learned last year is that there IS a limit to what you can do with a very basic set-up and 1/4″ tubing, but fortunately, there is a solution.

I ran into a problem last year that didn’t make itself known right away. It wasn’t until we had transplanted several hosta from our backyard where they weren’t doing much of anything, to the front yard landscaped area next to our sidewalk where our 15-year old shrubs had finally given up the ghost. After pulling out a lot of old, tenacious roots, we added in some lovely soil amendments to break up all the clay we have to deal with, and planted the hosta. I then set about putting my drip irrigation together.

I wanted to really make certain they were well watered, so rather than just use a button dripper with about a 0.5-1.0 gallon per hour (GPH) flow rate, I brought my big guns – the adjustable dripper on a spike that has a flow rate of 0-10 GPH. Sounds really great, doesn’t it? The hanging pot next to our front door already had one, as did the elephant ear plant on the other side of the door. After adding in the new hosta on the right side of the sidewalk, and the 5 new hostas on the left side, for the life of me, I could NOT figure out why I wasn’t getting anything more than a trickle for the last 3 or so hostas, despite having the flow rate on the drippers wide open. It wasn’t until I did some basic math that it all made sense. 8 heads at up to 10 GPH – on tubing that has a max flow rate of 35 GPH – I’d have to turn the rate so low on the plants on either side of the door that they would barely even get watered at all. As my husband is fond of saying, it’s an insurmountable problem, and nothing I could ever do on that setup was going to fix it. I had a similar situation on my patio, with too many drippers for the tubing, and barely being able to get all of my plants watered.

This year, however, I decided to upgrade, and for a small investment and a little planning, I’ve got a far superior set up. I switched over to the DIG products and am running 1/2″ tubing rather than 1/4″. The flow rate for that is 220 GPH.

For a quick visual reference, check out the difference between the two lines. In this picture, coming off the left side of the timer first is the pressure reducer and filter, followed by the new 1/2″ black tubing at the bottom. On the right side of the timer right after the pressure reducer is the original 1/4″ tubing. It really makes it easy to see the difference in the amount of the water that can move through the tubing!

I ran that all the way around the periphery of the patio and then plugged the individual lines for the pots into the tubing. It was so simple to do; all you need is a punch to make the hole in the tubing and the connectors. One end of the connector goes into the 1/4″ tubing, the other into the 1/2″ tubing. On the other side of the 1/4″ I put the appropriate watering head. At the end of the 1/2″ tubing run, I just looped the tubing over on itself and put a zip tie on it to securely kink it closed rather than buy the special gadget they sell for this purpose.

So how small of an investment you wonder? Well I had a lot of the smaller tubing and connections, but the larger tubing and head unit, plus a few connection pieces that I needed cost me around $30. I set it up in an evening, everything went together really quickly. The only problem I had with it, was I got a little carried away on one punch and went out the other side. Fortunately DIG has a solution for that with something called a “goof plug”. It looks like a standard connection plug but it’s solid. You just push it into the spot where you made the mistake and it’s plugged up.

Another addition this year are some micro-spray mister heads from Rain Bird for some of my hanging pots. If I used the adjustable sprayers, it seemed like they got watered, but a lot of the water was also just running through the pot and out the bottom. With the sprayer head it seems now like it’s more evenly dispersed over the whole plant and takes longer before I have run-off of the extra.

The plants are happy, getting watered consistently every day, and I don’t have to run around filling up my watering can. We even buried some PVC pipe under the grass about 4 inches down, with an elbow on each end to bring the pipe up above ground so that I can run 1/4″ tubing from the patio area through that, under the grass and into a different area that we have landscaped. In there I have a couple of other pots to water as well, and they’re now connected to the irrigation system too. So even on really hot days, if I get busy or just don’t want to be outside like last week when the heat index hit 114 degrees, it won’t matter: my system is on a timer and my plants stay happy. Can’t beat that!

It’s the Clock’s Fault!

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed as I’ve been out driving that I seem to be having more near misses when it comes to car accidents. I really don’t think my driving habits have changed significantly, or if they have, I would say I might be driving slightly more “old lady-ish” but that would be about all, and by that I only mean I’m more prone to following the speed limit, not running yellow lights, that sort of thing. But over the last several months I’ve had several close calls where I’ve almost been side swiped (twice), rear-ended at high speeds (twice), lane drifters, and all kinds of other stuff. It’s taken me a while, but I think I am finally figuring out the problem.

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is that “oh we’re all so busy and in a hurry”, and that might be partly true, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. Nor do I think that distracted driving is completely to blame either, although it certainly can take the lion’s share of it. So, my analytical little brain has sat and thought, and thought, and thought about this one.

Having a background in Quality Improvement is interesting. You start to look at things in a different way. For example, in the past you might have thought to yourself “I wonder how my favorite bakery decides on a new cookie to bake?” but now it’s all part of a process. You start with this step, move to the next, then next and voila, new cookie in the market! Or you overanalyze things to find root cause, because you can’t just let ordinary things go – you are compelled to keep asking why.

You know, there’s a new trend in interviewing in business, called Behavioral Based Interviewing and the rationale behind it is that past actions are the best predictor of future behavior. Well, apparently, it’s true, just ask my mom, because I’m fairly certain she’ll tell you I was one of those annoying two-year olds that ran around behind her always asking “why, why, why, why, why?” Of course, in hindsight, perhaps she should have known I’d go into Quality, since the key to doing root cause analysis on a problem is asking “why” 5 times! (Parents, take heart – if you have a toddler like this, quality analysis is a great career field!)

So, as I’ve pondered why I seem to be seeing more near misses, I think I have found the answer. The reason why we’re do busy, why we’re so distracted, is the digital clock. Think about it for a moment. Back when all we used were analog clocks, we were much more likely to live on -ish time. You know what I mean…”what time is it honey?” “It’s 3:30-ish”. Or “when do you think you’ll be leaving work?” “5-ish”. We’d glance at the clock to find out what time it was, respond in relative time frames. You’d see it was getting close to a time you’d need to do something, so you’d act accordingly. If you needed to leave by 4 to get somewhere and you saw this:

You’d think “I’d better get going” and off you’d go. But now, we think in terms of this:

and immediately think “Oh, it’s only 3:54, it takes me maybe 30 minutes to get there and if I push it, I can do it in 28. I’m good, ” and then we dawdle until suddenly it’s this:

…and the next thing you know you’re flying down the road, not paying attention, running nearly red lights and almost sideswiping unsuspecting motorists who are doing the right thing at stoplights by waiting until after the light turns green before preceding into the intersection, when you come along and make a right turn on red without stopping because you dawdled. Again.

When I got an Apple watch, one of the first things I did was to set up a watch face that was analog. I like it so much better than digital, as I really do prefer that sense of “-ish time.” You know what I’m talking about when I use that term, we still have it in our lives, just not as much as we used to. “What time will your party start?” “Oh, 6-ish or so.” Or, “What time is dinner?” “Probably 7-ish”. Better yet, I like the even more vague dark-thirty, as in “the party really got going around dark-thirty”. (Don’t overthink it. If I have to explain it to you, we probably wouldn’t have much fun together at a party anyway.)

I know I won’t change the world and get everyone back to an analog life, but it sure would be lovely if we could figure out how to slow down just a little, and not be so urgent all of the time. Maybe get a little more “ish” back into our lives – in the good way.

Reading and Chasing Squirrels

I’m a voracious reader, always have been. Just ask my mom, she’ll happily tell you about any number of occasions where she had to call my name multiple times to get my nose out of a book and do my chores when I was a kid, and I can honestly say all these years later, not much has changed. Sometimes I read fast, sometimes I go slowly, savoring every word. Recently, I read something written in a style that I’d not tried before, and wow, what an experience it was.

For Christmas this year, I told my husband I wanted “Pioneer Girl”, which is an autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder edited by Pamela Smith Hill, and more specifically, it’s an annotated autobiography. Having never read something annotated before, I didn’t really understand what precisely, that meant.

Now, I’m rather curious and inquisitive by nature. I love learning things, solving puzzles, and am quite certain that I was a child that said “why” far too many times and probably drove my mother crazy. You’d think that reading something annotated would be right up my alley, right? Well yes – and no, and I’ll tell you why.

If you’ve never cracked open a book that is annotated, I’ll tell you what makes it unique. Rather than having the footnotes at the end of the book, they are included throughout the entire text, so that the reader has the additional information about that particular thing that has a notation attached to it, right when you’re reading it. This is good, in that you have the benefit of more context at that moment in time. It’s also bad, because if you’re like me, it can be a little distracting, like when you’re trying to look for a butterfly, and then suddenly I yell “squirrel!!” and all of a sudden, I’m off down the proverbial rabbit trail. Here’s a great example.

One morning I started reading about the family’s move back to De Smet, SD, in 1879. As I saw some maps and photos, I got to wondering how different it looked today as compared to then, and what might still be around, because of course I wasn’t just content to read the book and annotations. Nope, I had to ALSO open Google maps, pull up De Smet on the map, put it in satellite view and start zooming in, then put the little yellow man on the streets and walk around. I had to zoom out again and find the Big Slough, Silver Lake, find out where the Ingalls homestead was, was anything still there? Where was Almanzo’s homestead, is there a marker there? Zoom in, zoom out, fiddle around. Search Google for historical De Smet photos, find ones from the period, was Pa Ingalls store on there? Is it still around? Good grief!!

I’ve done the same thing with other historical places. I think it’s wonderful to be able to find these old photos on the internet, and see what used to be, and how things have changed. I even caught myself doing it again yesterday when we finished watching a wonderful documentary from Ken Burns on the Great Plains in the time of the dust bowl. In the show was narration from a book written by Caroline Henderson, who had purchased land and homesteaded in the early 1900’s before she married (what a woman!). She then married, and she and her husband lived on that land and farmed in the heart of the dust bowl, and she wrote about life during that time. Of course, at the end of the documentary, there I am on Google maps, searching for the Henderson homestead in Oklahoma. Yes, it’s still there but unfortunately, it’s just far enough off main roads that the Google camera hasn’t photographed it.

Did you also know that you can get a “what was there” view using Google Earth Pro? It won’t work with regular Google Maps, you need to use the Google Earth Pro app. Once you find an address, you can use the imagery date slider bar to go back in time to see earlier satellite images of the area. Or course, the older they are, the poorer the imagery is because they didn’t have high resolution satellite photography years ago. You also can’t drop the little yellow Google guy on the street for a street view of yesteryear – it will change to a street view of the most current year’s image. But it’s still fun. I’ve also gotten lost in our state historical society’s online photographic collection, Facebook’s Old Minneapolis page, and a site called Minnesota Reflections. I find that as I dig around one site, I will stumble on something else, and then another and another and suddenly I’ve killed an entire morning, my eyes are blurry from staring at the computer screen and I can’t feel my rear end because I’ve sat for too long. But dang, I sure had fun!